June 22, 2028
Hôpital de l’Hôtel-Dieu, Paris, France
“MERYL!” Jack yelled at the top of his lungs as he dropped the still recording camera to the floor. The picture faced the clear blue sky that was visible through the third floor of the building. Smoke evaporated into the arid winds.
Cursing, hyperventilating, and shaking, Jack Reede slowly edged towards the damaged area, unsure whether or not he wanted to see the gruesome scene three floors down. He wished he were as brave as Meryl. Taking a deep, broken breath, Jack tentatively gazed over the edge, readying himself for the violent images that would taint his mind.
He sighed with great relief, and laughed.
Meryl hung for dear life on a rusted, bent, skeletal beam that protruded from the broken floor. She grunted and panted, trying to climb up but to no avail. Her clothes were singed, the long sleeves she had on were torn away. Using her remaining strength, suspended in midair, she gazed up at the man who just stood there.
“Jesus, girl,” Jack nervously chortled as he recovered from his momentary stun. “I thought you were a goner. You really are lucky.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” She groused and attempted to pull herself up again. “Now shut it and help me up!”
As his own throbbing heart calmed, the cameraman held out his arm and she took hold of it. With surprising ease, and his years of managing a heavy boom pole, he pulled her up, away from the long fall, away perhaps, from certain death.
She was light and easy to lift as he quickly wrapped his arm around her back and withdrew her securely from the precipice.
As he held her shoulder for support, Jack asked, “What about Kai?”
“He’s nothing more than a nightmare now.” She sighed and panted.
Suddenly, without thought, she fell to her knees, her arms dangling limply by her sides. A slight grin crossed her pale, dust filled features, “I shot him in the head, and he was consumed by his own damn bomb. He is gone for good,” she added to herself more than her companion. “It’s finally over.”
It is over, finally over… she thought silently to herself. And excitement bubbled within her as she repeated again and again. “It is over.”
Soon, she was laughing with relief, laughing at Death. Laughing as if she had never laughed before. She even laughed at the stitch in her side.
She was alive. He was dead.
This new reaction shook Jack. Blackbird was laughing. In spite of his shocked observance, he too smiled nervously and unsteadily helped her up. “C’mon, we’ve got to check on the others.”
As they shook off the dust particles, both looked over the edge for evidence; whether it was out of curiosity or reassurance, they could not tell. However, there was only debris and charred plaster on the ground. As the wind picked up, grey ash and red embers flew gently with the breeze and were swept away.
“Risen. From. Ashes.” Blackbird whispered the words Kai said to her all those years ago. “Who is the victorious one now?”
Stepping away to give her a moment alone, Jack walked back to pick up the camcorder. His legs refused to corporate as they were still trembling.
The device, though slightly damaged, continued to document the unfurling events. He sighed shakily and shut off the camera.
He then turned and asked quietly without making eye contact, “What were his intentions for starting this war?”
The grin she wore faded as she stared into the daylight, the warm breeze brushed her cheek and rustled her hair, the fresh air filled her lungs.
Six years ago, she would have predicted, and correctly answered that question; but now, she didn’t know.
She shrugged and conjectured, “He wanted the entire Grigori line dead, he wanted to kill any and all associates and would have. But, he was deranged from years of seething hatred against mankind. So, I don’t know the truth.”
“Why did he wait so long to attack?” Jack stood at the edge, next to her and studied the clouds of smoke, thinking that they may have the answers to the many questions he had.
“It’s what he does,” was her ready response. “He lulls you into a sense of security. Then, when your guard is finally down, he strikes. That’s how he had Matthew killed and my family.”
A few chips of the floor fell into the mass of cement, paint, and glass; Meryl stepped back.
“We should check on Cameron,” Jack suggested as he gently took Meryl’s trembling arm and guided her from the edge of the past.
Silently, she agreed and together they departed the smoking building, the trembling ground, and the souls lost.
“I cannot wait to lead a peaceful life after this,” Meryl retorted nonchalantly as she and Jack opened the doors to the main road.
“You’re telling me,” her temporary companion responded lightly. “Though I still have a few years of camera duty before I move on.”
Although the streets were stagnant, Meryl and Jack noticed a few natives and refugees watching, and some recording the smoldering hospital. Some even noticed the companions, covered in ash and dust, walk out unscathed.
However, to their relief, the onlookers were too frightened to approach them.
“I visited Paris with my grandmother once. It’s strange to see this place almost barren,” Meryl stated as she studied the witnesses, wondering if they would want to ask about the hospital. “The streets used to be filled with people and a lot of traffic.”
“Yeah, this is my first time actually being here,” Jack admitted sheepishly. “My vacations were going to Myrtle Beach with my extended family. Although, I’m not complaining. There was very little traffic.”
They chuckled and soon saw the flying buttresses of the grand cathedral.
Meryl was surprised and relieved that the explosion had not affected the historic monument. Besides the few shattered stained glass panes, it was still in good shape and in a few years, with proper restoration, it would look as majestic and as beautiful as it always had.
He stopped in his tracks, nearly at the door. Meryl was battling with herself, struggling to find the right words.
“I…” She was evidently having a hard time. Her mouth opened and closed before she expressed the words she had not uttered for more than seven years. “I want to thank you.”
“For what? I was just rec-”
“For not letting me go alone,” she motioned to the hospital. “Thank you, for saving me.”
She held out her hand to him. Jack broke into a grin and accepted. “Any time, Meryl. Except, let’s make sure there are no explosions next time.”
Meryl agreed, and for a moment, they stood there, their hands clamped in a firm shake.
Then, after tension had built up around them, they pulled away.
Jack entered the cathedral and Meryl stayed behind, not yet ready to face Megan and her questioning. Glancing upward, she studied the relief effigies.
Their glares from before had softened. It was as if their anger towards her had abated, Proud that she had finally stopped Kai.
Scoffing, she shook her head, “Happy now?” she entered the quiet place of worship.
As soon as she stepped inside, something close to chaos filled the room. Jack had rushed over to the pew where Meryl had left Alice.
As Blackbird followed his footsteps, she heard Jack’s cry of worry and shock and wondered what had happened in their absence.
“Meryl?” a disconcerted Alice cautiously stepped into view. Her shirt and hands were stained red, as if she had been painting. “It is you!”
She surprised the entire room by running towards the woman and tightly hugging her around her slim middle.
Alice sobbed into Meryl’s singed and torn shirt, aware yet not caring that she was covered in ash and smoke.
“What happened?” Meryl asked, too stunned by this action.
“Cameron…” Alice attempted to compose herself, “He’s dead, and so are Susan and Justin.”
“I’m sorry, I truly am.” Meryl spoke softly, and she meant it. She hugged Alice’s shoulders in a sisterly fashion, hoping to console the weeping woman.
“What about Kai?” Megan asked, stepping from the pew behind Jack. She was disheveled. Her outfit was torn and bloodstained. Her make-up was smeared with mascara that ran down her cheeks. She had evidently been weeping.
“How?” Megan and Alice asked in astounded unison.
“He, being his devious self, had manipulated the doctor into acquiring a bomb. He held it in his hand and pulled the pin. Jack has the footage if you want to see.” Meryl motioned towards her temporary companion.
Both Alice and Megan scrambled to Jack; they obviously wanted to make sure Meryl was telling the truth.
The three watched the small video with fright. Even though Jack had witnessed this horrid scene with his own eyes, shock still struck him as he observed it again.
Sighing deeply, still taking in the new facts, Meryl walked over to the pew she had occupied, before the disaster.
She needed to see.
Cameron lay still as a board on the bench, his hands clasped over his chest. He looked almost peaceful if it were not for the fact that there was dried blood from his ears, or the blunt head wound.
Out of greatest respect, Meryl grasped his cold, stiff, bruised wrist. She could not think of any words to say that did not sound cold, or hollow.
Knowing that her time was up, she picked up the journal she had left behind. A small note protruded from between the pages. Upon inspection, three words were written in gentle, clean handwriting:
Alice’s address and cell phone number were listed below. Meryl half smiled, hid the note, and buried the diary in her back pocket.
Struggling to sort through her emotions, she strode deliberately towards the large doors, ignoring the three as she passed them. What remained of the news team, watched her like vultures as she made her way to the outside world.
“Where are you going?” Megan asked before Meryl crossed the threshold.
“Nowhere in particular,” the woman responded with a small backward glance.
Their eyes widened. For the first time, in their presence, Meryl grinned as she brushed back her tangled hair. “Show the world, Megan. Tell them it’s finally over.”
Her smile was beautiful and radiant. It seemed to calm their minds and raise Megan’s, Jack’s, and Alice’s broken spirits.
“Where will you be if we need you?” Alice asked timidly. She knew Meryl found the short note.
The woman’s smile broadened. She truly felt happy and free as she winked.
It was simple, straightforward, and stirring.
She opened both doors of the famous cathedral. The wind whistled as a bright sun revealed its heartfelt gleams from behind the pearly white clouds. The newfangled day and celebrated sunlight blinded the three for a moment. They heard the victorious sound of triumph emanating from the renewing gust.
Then, the doors closed. The light, the warmth, and the wind were gone.
And so too, was Blackbird.